COLUMBUS — Marsy’s Law for Ohio, the crime victims bill of rights amendment, has submitted more than 560,000 signatures to the Ohio secretary of state. The proposed constitutional amendment needs 305,591 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
Joined by crime victim advocates and survivors from across the state and endorsed by more than 140 Ohio advocacy organizations, elected officials and community leaders, the campaign demonstrated its broad-based support during a Columbus news conference.
“Too often a victim isn’t afforded the basic rights in the criminal justice system,” said Dr. Henry Nicholas, Founder of Marsy’s Law for All and Marsy’s older brother. “Victims aren’t given information, notification, or the right to make their voice heard, and that’s not right. Together we are now finally doing something about it.”
“This is a historical moment for Ohio crime victims,” said Cathy Harper Lee, executive director of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center. Harper Lee has worked for decades in Ohio helping survivors of violent crime. “Today’s signature submission ensures that we will soon get the opportunity to vote for equal rights for crime victims in the Buckeye State.”
Supporters also blanketed the state with regional events, educational sessions and coffee klatches in all 88 counties raising awareness for the victims rights amendment and launching the campaign’s next phase.
“Marsy’s Law will give Meigs County crime victims equal rights throughout the criminal justice process,” said Prosecutor James Stanley in a news release. “We will do our part to make sure this important amendment is enshrined into the Ohio Constitution.”
Under the Marsy’s Law for Ohio amendment, crime victims would have the right to notification of all proceedings as well as be guaranteed the right to be heard at every step of the process. Victims would have the right to have input on all plea deals for offenders as well as the right to restitution resulting from the financial impact of the crime.
“From our personal experience, we found that dignity and respect for crime victims was absent from court proceedings,” said Maria Bonvechio, whose 11-year old son was brutally attacked by a drifter with a history of violent crime. “Marsy’s Law would ensure the rights for crime victims would be enforced, respected and heard.”
Groups appearing at last week’s news conference in support of Marsy’s Law included: Action Ohio Coalition for Battered Women; Asian American Community Services; Buckeye Regional Anti-Violence Coalition; Community Refugee & Immigration Services; Deaf Phoenix; Deaf World Against Violence Everywhere; MADD Ohio; Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence; Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center; Ohio Domestic Violence Network; Ohio Hispanic Coalition; Ohio Victim Witness Association; Parents of Murdered Children; and Somali Community Association of Ohio.
The Marsy’s Law for Ohio movement has garnered groundswell of support from elected officials, law-enforcement officers and crime victim advocacy groups. To date, the Ohio constitutional amendment has been endorsed by a broad, bipartisan coalition including 46 local elected officials, 36 victim organizations, 20 state lawmakers, 13 county sheriffs, eight county prosecutors, and seven police chiefs.
The Marsy’s Law movement began in 1983, when Marsy Nicholas was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in California. Only a week after her murder, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they saw the accused murderer. The family, who had just visited Marsy’s grave, had no idea the accused murderer had been released on bail. Following his sister’s murder, Dr. Henry Nicholas has dedicated himself to giving victims and their families across the country constitutional protections and equal rights. Dr. Nicholas is funding the effort in Ohio.
Information provided by the Meigs County Prosecutor’s Office.